England 2-1 Slovakia (aet): Arsenal's Saka and Rice help guide Three Lions to last eight of Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham's superb 95th minute leveller broke Slovak hearts as England won through to the last eight of Euro 2024 on a dramatic night in Gelsenkirchen

England 2-1 Slovakia (aet): Arsenal's Saka and Rice help guide Three Lions to last eight of Euro 2024

Three Lions support in Gelsenkirchen cheered England into the quarter-finals

England 2–1 Slovakia (aet): Report by Layth Yousif at AufSchalke Arena

England beat Slovakia in a pulsating game for the ages, saving Gareth Southgate’s job – for now. 

On a remarkable Sunday evening in Gelsenkirchen Jude Bellingham’s extraordinary 95th minute overhead kick ensured the managerial obituaries for Southgate’s were put on hold. 

With only seconds of injury time remaining, the world class Real Madrid midfielder’s stunningly athletic saviour levelled Slovakia’s first half opener by Ivan Schranz.

The outstanding late strike broke Slovak hearts in the process, allowing Harry Kane to apply the killer blow with his emphatic header early in extra time – prompting incredible scenes at the AufSchalke Arena, by sending the tens of thousands of England fans into unbridled raptures.

Southgate’s side now face Switzerland with a place in the last four at stake should they win.

Speaking after the match, Southgate said:

A rousing rendition of God Save The King boomed out before kick-off from the England support who formed the majority of fans at this stadium. It was up to Southgate’s side to give a performance worthy of their outstanding support.

As expected, England boss Southgate made one change from the starting XI that underwhelmed during the goalless draw against Slovenia.

Kobbie Mainoo replaced Conor Gallagher from the disappointing draw in Cologne, albeit a stalemate that saw the Three Lions qualify top of Group C, unbeaten in three matches, that set up Sunday’s clash with Slovakia.

An early yellow card was handed to Marc Guehi by Turkish referee Umut Meler after the Crystal Palace defender was sold short by Kieran Trippier’s pass, leaving the centre-back tangling with Slovakia’s No18 David Strelec – meaning Guehi will miss the Swiss game.

Moments later, Strelec caused alarm when he fired low across the face of Jordan Pickford’s goal.

In a lively opening, Bukayo Saka created space at the other end shortly afterwards, as England attempted to push forward. Amongst it all  Mainoo also received a yellow card for a foul on Ondrej Duda.

It was Juraj Kucka’s turn to pick up a yellow card next, for fouling Trippier as England looked to break. The caution coming after Lukas Haraslin got in behind the England right channel prior to shooting – which saw Guehi throw himself in front of the ball to block in a hectic opening. 

It was Bellingham’s turn to be booked after only 17 minutes, for hacking Lukas Haraslin as both sides attempted to assert their dominance.

Yet, it was plain to see Southgate’s England were struggling defensively, and offensively, against the Slovaks – and with three bookings on their charge sheet already in under 20 minutes for good measure.

The pressure – and Slovakian creativity – were eventually to make their mark, when Schranz slotted past Jordan Pickford with the outside of his boot to put the Slovaks 1-0 ahead on 25 minutes, following a superb through ball by the dangerous Strelec.

You couldn’t say Southgate’s England weren’t given due warning about the dangerous threat this Slovakian team possess.

Not when Schranz also scored the winner against Belgium in the group stage, with his Gelsenkirckhen goal making it three goals for the tournament, as Slovakia maintained their record of scoring first in every game so far, with all those goals also coming before the break.

No wonder their delighted fans cheered at the half time whistle – while the England support booed, once again, following another underwhelming opening 45 minutes here in Germany.

As the half time whistle blew, England required a far better performance in order to stay in this competition. For the first time in this tournament.

They also owed it to themselves, to their manager, and to the fans.

Would it happen? If it didn’t you could be sure Gelsenkirchen would be Southgate’s final game in charge of this England.

As if to underline Southgate’s luck – or lack of it – when Phil Foden was rightly flagged offside, five minutes after the break. 

What was impressive was that the information was shared to the crowd via the big screens that hung above the pitch. Perhaps something for the Premier League to look into for next season.

Five minutes later, the always-dangerous Strelec pounced on a loose pass in the middle, and from just inside the England half attempted an outrageous long-range effort that at one stage appeared to be heading into the net, before losing legs and fading, to drift narrowly wide of the target – in what was a big escape for England.

As the clock ticked down, England pushed forward but just couldn’t find a way through the redoubtable Slovak backline.

And when, on the rare occasion a cross from Foden entered the box, hitherto anonymous skipper Kane headed wide. 

With nine minutes to go, Declan Rice hit the woodwork with a long drive, before Kane volleyed over the rebound from a diffuclt angle. 

Just as you thought the final whistle would blow, England won a throw deep along the line – providing one final set piece ball to save their tournament - and Southgate’s job.

And so it was to prove. 

Kyle Walker’s long throw was flicked on by Guehi, before Bellingham, who only turned 21 a day earlier - who, in a split second assessed the best way to make a true connection with the ball - meaning the best way to score from that unpromising situation was to perform an overhead kick.

Which is precisely what the La Liga and Champions League winner did.

Connecting perfectly with the aerial ball – no shin for Jude – to see the ball evade Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka and fly into the net.

Cue utter pandemonium in the stadium.

Players ran here there and everywhere, while Slovakia players slumped to the ground, unable or unwilling to comprehend, to accept that such a spectacular goal, such a late, spectacular goal was to deny them their first quarter-final as a nation. 

In scoring a goal that will surely already go down as one of the most memorable moments in England’s international football history, Bellingham, also became the youngest player to score for England in a Euro knockout match – beating the previous youngest – a certain Michael Owen.

Slovakia looked broken as they kicked off.

Five seconds later, they were broken, when referee Meler blew the whistle after nearly 96 minutes. 

Worse was to come for Slovakia, brave but psychological beaten Slovakia,

A minute into extra time, Kane headed home following a mishit shot by Eberechi Eze, as fans doubled down on manic celebrations that had only just died down.

Credit has to go to substitute Ivan Toney, who guided the ball to the Three Lions captain who made no mistake - as England fans around the press box and all around the ground erupted in deep joy at the notion of being 2-1 ahead.

Such are the utter vagaries of sport.

England were seconds away from an embarrassing round of 16 defeat – with the hapless Southgate moments away from surely losing his job amid rancour and acrimony - yet his Three Lions are now looking forward to a quarter-final clash vs Switzerland.

Football. Bloody hell.


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